It’s now or never for Blues veterans in their quest to be European Champions
When Chelsea overcame Barcelona to make it to the Champions League Final, I wrote that I was afraid the final itself might seem a bit anticlimactic after such an epic, heroic effort. I hope I’m wrong! Unfortunately, Chelsea squeezed in some pretty anticlimactic (and downright depressing) Premier League matches between the Champions League semifinal and tomorrow’s final. To defeat Bayern Munich in their home stadium will require another heroic effort. Chelsea can do it – Bayern isn’t as good as Barcelona. But the gutsy, smartly aggressive, unified Chelsea team will have to show up in Munich, not the lackadaisical squad that lost to Newcastle and Liverpool over the past couple weeks.
On the eve of the world’s biggest club competition final, most pundits are pegging Chelsea as the underdogs. The pundits are probably right. If the Blues can keep from conceding a goal in the first half hour, I like their chances. Offensively, Drogba and Lampard need to have a big game. I hope Torres gets to start up front with Drogba – I think they could create some good space together. Mata’s final-third passing must be sharp.
The area I’m most nervous about is defense. With Cahill and Luiz just now returning from hamstring injuries, I’m afraid they may not be up to speed enough to adequately fill in for the suspended Terry and Ivanovic. But then, who would’ve thought Jose Bosingwa (who replaced Cahill when he pulled his hamstring in the second leg against Barcelona) would be such a defensive rock against Barcelona? If Luiz gets the starting nod, he must play with absolute discipline, as he is susceptible to clumsy fouls in dangerous areas. I think Ashley Cole can hold off Arjen Robben on the right wing, but I’m not sure Chelsea has a defender that can consistently occupy Franck Ribery on the opposite wing. I’d also feel better if Terry was able to mark Mario Gomez in the middle.
If Chelsea weathers the early Bayern onslaught, I think we’ll be in for a great back-and-forth battle. Of course, I’d definitely trade back-and-forth for a comfortable two or three goal Chelsea lead for most of the match!
Chelsea making it to the Champions League Final feels like the club is living on borrowed time. It’s almost like a bonus – of the best kind – that the team barely deserves after their awful Premier League season. Yet they do deserve to be in the final because no other team clawed their way through the tournament like Chelsea did. The Champions League and Premier League were odd dual seasons for the Blues this year – with their Champions League performances reminding us what they’re capable of. Chelsea has the chance on Saturday to turn a most forgettable season into an unforgettable one. For Chelsea veterans like Drogba and Lampard, you can be certain they’re going to leave it all on the field to ensure the team doesn’t waste this very rare opportunity.
Will Chelsea win their first ever European Cup on Saturday?